Incurable hiccups. The Elephant Man. Werewolf syndrome. Think you’ve heard it all? Think again. Here are ten of the most bizarre medical conditions you’ll ever hear about.
10. Foreign Accent Syndrome
Did you know that a traumatic event in the brain can cause you to speak with a foreign accent? That’s what happened to a Norwegian woman who began speaking with a German accent after being hit on the head by a bomb fragment during World War II. And, in 2006, a Canadian woman who lived on the Western side of Lake Ontario adopted an eastern Canadian accent even though she’s never been to that region and doesn’t know anyone from there. Other cases include a Florida woman speaking with a British accent, a Japanese woman speaking with a Korean accent, and a South Carolina man speaking with a French accent.
9. Super Memory
As the saying goes, an elephant never forgets. Well, there are some people who never forget either. That’s because they can’t forget. These people suffer from a condition known as hyperthymesic syndrome, which comes from “thymesis,” the Greek word for “remembering,” and from the word “hyper,” which means “more than normal.” One such case was a Wisconsin man who remembered everything, including what the weather was like on a specific date in the past. According to James McGaugh, a brain researcher at the University of California at Irvine, it’s not fully understood just how people with hyperthymesic syndrome are able to recall information the way they do. One explanation could be that they’re more adept when it comes to organizing, categorizing and accessing information. “In order to explain a phenomenon you have to first understand the phenomenon,” McGaugh told ABC News. “We’re at the beginning.”
8. Unusual Appetite
People who suffer from a disorder known as “pica” have a strong urge to eat… non-food items, that is. For example, some sufferers have eaten things like paint, glass, wood, nails, salt shaker tops, urine, feces, mucus, hair, chalk, and body parts. The disorder develops as a result of stress, mineral deficiency, or pregnancy.
One such case was a woman in Missouri who had eaten over 1,400 metal items. The items were surgically removed from her stomach. However, she died of blood loss during the surgery.
7. Sweating Blood
A rare condition known as hematohidrosis causes sufferers to sweat blood, although bleeding has also been reported in areas of the body where there are no sweat glands. According to doctors, there may be several causes for people sweating blood, including an inability to clot, a psychogenetic disease, or an extreme emotional response. According to Dr. Michelle Sholzberg, co- director of the Hemophilia Comprehensive Care program at St. Michael’s Hospital, it could be an “anatomical defect on a microscopic level,” perhaps in the sweat ducts.
The first cases of hematohidrosis syndrome appeared in the 16th century, but mentions can be found as far back as Aristotle’s time.
6. Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID)
Sufferers of this medical condition feel as if one of their body parts shouldn’t be there. According to neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran, BIID sufferers are missing part of their body image map in their brains, and that’s what causes them to feel like their leg, foot or some other body part, doesn’t belong. In other words, the body part is not correctly mapped onto the corresponding brain region.
It’s important to note that sufferers are otherwise sane, despite having developed such a bizarre medical condition.
Believe it or not, there is a cure for this condition: amputation. According to Live Science, patients report feeling much happier after getting the unwanted body part surgically removed.
5. Mass Hysteria
Mass hysteria is a psychological condition mainly affecting clusters of females. Symptoms include seizures, convulsions and fainting. Despite these symptoms, the sufferers are typically in good physical health.
Mass hysteria has been around for centuries, and was once thought to be the result of witchcraft (e.g. the Salem Witch Trials of 1692). In fact, dozens of people were executed for supposedly causing mass hysteria in several young girls in and around Salem, MA.
Several fellow high school students in upstate New York recently developed Tourette’s-like symptoms. School officials thought the students were being poisoned, but psychiatrists said they were simply modern day cases of mass hysteria.
4. Laughing Death
This epidemic made headlines in the 1950s when it was reported that people were bursting out into maniacal laughter, followed by shaking limbs, an inability to stand, crossed eyes, incoherent speech, and eventually death. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “swiss-cheesing”–that is, holes in the brain–was the cause of death… at least in part. Dr. Carleton Gajdusek later found out that the cause of the epidemic was cannibalism. Laughing Death, or Kuru, was exclusive to the tribal Fore people of New Guinea, and it was a village custom to eat family members after death, thus leading to the spread of the infection. The epidemic stopped once cannibalism was eliminated.
3. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
For those not familiar with the story, in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a young girl embarks on several adventures in a dream world, including drinking a potion that makes her shrink and eating a cake that makes her grow to an enormous size. Of course this was all just a dream. But for many people, it is a reality.
People suffering from Alice in Wonderland Syndrome have a disorder that affects their perception. For some, objects appear much smaller than they really are (micropsia). For others, objects appear to be much larger than they are (macropsia). The condition can also affect a person’s hearing, sense of touch, and perception of their own body image. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is also associated with migraines.
FUN FACT: Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, suffered from migraine headaches. Many believe that his headaches inspired some of the passages in the work.
2. Water Allergy
It may be hard to believe, but some people are allergic to water. Aquagenic urticaria is an extremely rare condition. In fact, there have only been 30 known cases.
Aquagenic urticaria usually appears later in life. It is thought to be caused by a hormonal imbalance brought on by childbirth. Aquagenic urticaria is characterized by a painful, burning rash.
A case that emerged in the UK in April 2009 left a young mother unable to drink water or go out in the rain. Showering for her was limited to 10 seconds per week, and she could only drink Diet Coke.
INTERESTING FACT: The condition typically occurs from exposure to non-distilled water.
1. Cotard Delusion
Remember that scene in The Sixth Sense where the little boy tells Bruce Willis’ character that he sees dead people? Well, cotard delision (a.k.a. walking corpse syndrome) is something like that. The difference is the dead person they see is themselves.
One day, out of the blue, the person wakes up and thinks they’re dead or that their flesh is rotting off. Even though it’s all in their head, the sufferers are actually sane. According to Live Science, “the brain region involved in facial recognition has become disconnected from the regions involved in emotion. When the person looks in the mirror, they recognize themselves, but they don’t have the usual emotional response. Their appearance has lost its association with their sense of self, and this cognitive dissonance results in the sense that they do not exist, or have died.”
Do you or someone you know have a bizarre medical condition? Please tell us about it and any treatments/cures in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!